Traveling to the airport and downtown Detroit can be a nightmare for students without access to cars, but a newly proposed rail line between Ann Arbor and Detroit could soon alleviate transportation frustrations.
Last month, the United States Senate budgeted $331 million for the state of Michigan, including $3.5 million for a proposed rail service between Ann Arbor and Detroit that would include stops in Ypsilanti, Dearborn and the Detroit Metro Airport.
Carmine Palombo, director of Transportation Programs for the Southeast Michigan Council of Governments, said the budget for the new service is not yet set in stone. But, he said a number of aspects of the project would be completed by October 2010.
From Ann Arbor to Detroit, the service is expected to take around 50 to 55 minutes. Palombo said exact prices have yet to be determined, but the cost for a round-trip ticket will be competitive with other comparable services and will most likely range between $6 and $7.
While many officials have voiced support for this new service, additional funding for the project has been hard to come by, Palombo said.
“We are raising money from various little federal programs, and eventually we’re going to be going to the private sector and even some local government,” Palombo said.
Palombo said the investment will be worth it, citing the new rail service’s financial benefits for Michigan residents.
“There could be some potential significant savings in terms of cost,” Palombo said, noting the ability to avoid parking fees at popular events, like Michigan Football games and sporting events in Detroit.
Ann Arbor Councilman Carsten Hohnke (D–Ward 5) said the project would also benefit the city of Ann Arbor, offering a reliable and effective way to “significantly reduce the amount of commuting traffic that comes into the city.”
Hohnke added that the project would have an environmental impact by cutting down pollution.
“We have about 60,000 to 70,000 commuters that come into Ann Arbor every year (by car), and that (rail service) should cut down on that, which obviously has a positive impact on the overall carbon footprint of the region,” he said.
Whether the city of Ann Arbor would be willing to foot some of the bill for the new rail line is up for debate. Hohnke said Ann Arbor’s budget is “incredibly pressed.”
However, Hohnke said there are ways to work around the tight budget by partnering with the Ann Arbor Transportation Authority to generate revenue for the project.
Kinesiology sophomore Brett Barocas wrote in an e-mail interview that he would consider using the service.
“Since I do not have a car and am a big sports fan, it would come in handy when I want to get to Detroit to watch a game,” he wrote.
Barcoas added that he thinks students with limited means of transportation would take advantage of the new service.
“There are so many students without cars, and they are always looking for ways to get around,” he wrote.